Phase 2 of MALABAR 2020 aimed at coordinated operations between the navies of Australia, India, Japan and US begins today

INS Vikramaditya at Phase 2 of Malabar 2020
(Image courtesy: @SpokespersonMOD)

The second phase of the 4-nation Naval Exercise ‘Malabar 2020’ gets underway today in the Western Indian Ocean. The exercise involving the Navies of Australia, India, Japan and US will be conducted from 17 to 20 November 2020. The Phase 1 of Exercise Malabar 2020 was conducted in the Bay of Bengal from 03 to 06 November 2020.

A press release from the MOD said that the Phase 2 is aimed at taking forward the synergy achieved in the Phase 1. This phase will involve coordinated operations of increasing complexity between the navies of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, said the press note. The exercise is led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet.

Indian Navy has also said that Phase 2 of Exercise MALABAR 2020 will witness joint operations, centered around the Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group of the Indian Navy and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy. The two carriers, along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, would be engaged in high intensity naval operations over four days.

Cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz are included in these exercises. In addition, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance inter-operability and synergy between the four friendly navies, says the MOD press release.

Indigenous destroyers Kolkata and Chennai, stealth frigate Talwar, Fleet Support Ship Deepak and integral helicopters will also participate in the exercise, apart from INS Vikramaditya, its fighters and helicopter air-wings. Indigenously built submarine Khanderi and P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy will also showcase their capabilities during the exercise.

US Navy’s Strike Carrier Nimitz will be accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy will be represented by frigate Ballarat along with its integral helicopter. The Japanese nave will also participate in the exercise.

The Malabar series of exercises, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992, has seen increasing scope and complexity over the years. The 24th edition of MALABAR, which is being presently undertaken, highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues, and showcases their commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order.

These naval exercises also gain importance in the backdrop of the increased cooperations between the four countries especially after the initiation of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad). Quad) is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries. Though the Quas was conceptualised in 2007, it came to prominence during the tenure of PM Modi and Donald Trump in US.

(Image courtesy: @SpokespersonMOD)

Strategic experts view the Quad as a diplomatic and military arrangement to counter the increasing Chinese economic and military power. The Chinese government has not taken the Quad in stride and has responded to the same by issuing formal diplomatic protests to its members.

Between 2017 and 2019, the members of the Quad met five times. It was during the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi in 2018, the navy chiefs of Japan, US, Australia and India came together, indicating the initiation of the Quad’s security structure. In July 2020, India, Japan and USA were in talks to invite Australia for a co-ordinated navy exercise at Malabar 2020 which was scheduled at the end of 2020.

In October 2020, the four countries held a meeting in Tokyo over talks aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region, though no joint statement was issued by the Quad. In October 2020, MOD announced that Australia would join the Malabar 2020 naval exercises, consisting of India, Japan and the U.S to be held in November.

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